Nunc Loquamur

This and That

Here's a little rambling of things that didn't fit into the book.
My experience with guided conversations in ESL.

I was using a textbook my 'Conversation School' gave me. It was OK, but I soon got tired of it. I started shopping around for something new. I found a book that was exclusively guided conversations. It was so simple and straightforward. I couldn't resist.

My mistakes:

I just used the book as it was and didn't encourage my students to make their own variations--even though the authors encouraged this.

I didn't review enough. I should have had students start by doing the previous conversations first and then add new ones.

I didn't try combining conversations and building up to longer dialogues.

I focused too much on the vocabulary and grammar. I spent long minutes on the various aspects of the grammar. With vocabulary, I went off on tangents-different situations to use the word, various forms of the word, its roots, etc. It was distracting from the situation at hand. I had it in my head that teachers should pontificate and wow students with my intimate knowledge. (Students also expect this). Another reason is that I was delaying. I was an inexperienced 'Conversation Teacher'. After finishing the day's page in the book, I would have to start getting my students to speak. This can be painful--very painful.

The New Me:

I actually put aside the guided conversation textbook after a few years. I had grown tired of it. I worked with my students through a couple of different textbooks (they seem to be improving!) and then one day thought, "I should take another look at that book". I did and with fresh eyes. I learned from my mistakes. Here is a sample lesson.

  1. Students review a couple of conversations with a partner. [while I write the new one on the board]
  2. introduce the new conversation. Make sure the students understand the meaning. Point out the underlined parts where changes happen--make sure students understand the grammatical features and syntax. This should take 5 minutes, but it should be thourough. Students should feel confident with the material.
  3. students in pairs practice all the dialogues. Then pairs present.
  4. Do a new dialogue (if there is time)
  5. Combine the two dialogues- [Dialogue 1] + "By the way..." + [dialogue 2] Students create their own variation, write it in their notebooks, practice and present before dismissal.

In Nunc Loquamur, I added a section for students to write down what their classmates are saying. I like this feature. It encourages students to listen meaningfully to their classmates. It helps to teach service phrases like "What did you say?" "Could you repeat that?" and "How do you spell it?" I have some free posters with them. I call them Sine Qua Non. Take advantage of them.

In my situation, as "The oral communication teacher", guided conversations make up most of my lessons. Of course other techniques and materials would be needed for a complete language curriculum. I'm not here shouting "This is the only way!". That would be foolish and wrong. This is a tool to round off your curriculum and add some useful spice. Enjoy!
t. mccarthy